The Association of Women Solicitors has carried out one of the largest-ever surveys into the attitudes of women solicitors to their careers and work-life balance.

Nearly half of women solicitors in private practice law firms indicated that advancement to partnership was their main measure of career success. Despite these career aspirations, there is evidence of some dissatisfaction among women solicitors regarding their work arrangements and promotion prospects. One in two women solicitors believed that they worked too many hours a week and that to progress in their careers lawyers were expected to work long hours. 46 per cent of respondents believed that lawyers in their organisations constantly had to put their jobs ahead of their families or personal lives and one third were dissatisfied with their opportunities to work flexibly.

About 800 female solicitors, including partners, associates and assistants, from large City firms to smaller regional and high street practices participated in the survey, which was carried out with the help of Kings College London.

Professor Janet Walsh, the author of the survey,said: “The career development and work-life balance of women solicitors are issues of major concern for the future of the legal profession. Unfortunately there is a perception among some women solicitors that law firms pay lip service to work-life policies and to flexible working and are not fully committed to their implementation. If law firms wish to avoid higher levels of burnout and dissatisfaction they need to look carefully at the issue of women’s career progression, particularly at senior associate/associate level, and to address women’s concerns about work-life balance and flexible working at all levels of the profession.”

Dr Clare McConnell, the oputgoing chairwoman of the AWS, said: “The findings clearly show the depth of commitment women solicitors have to the profession and their clear aspiration to lead within it. What is clear is that as a profession we still have some way to go to ensuring that those aspirations are met. Firms need to develop their business structures and adopt clear career paths and promotion opportunities that are genuinely open to all.”

At the same time the study was published, the AWS has announced its new chairwoman. Dr McConnell has been replaced by Christl Hughes of Leicestershire solicitors Barlows.